LendKey Review [2024]: Affordable Loans and Lots of Options

LendKey connects you with banks and credit unions to provide private student loans, student loan refinance loans, and home improvement loans.
Updated Jan. 22, 2024
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If you need a loan, there's no shortage of options out there. You don't want to just borrow from anyone, though — it's important to find a trustworthy lender that can provide you a loan with reasonable terms.

Community banks and credit unions are often known for providing more affordable loans, but comparison shopping and finding the best loan from a local bank or credit union can be time-consuming and difficult. That's where LendKey comes in!

LendKey makes it easy and quick to find out how to get a loan from community lenders. Borrowers can start this process by submitting an online application for a private student loan, refinance loan, or home improvement loan. But should you use this service if you're seeking financing? This LendKey review will help you decide.

In this LendKey review:

What is LendKey?

LendKey is a technology company, not a lender. It was created to connect borrowers to community lenders that tend to be more focused on customer service and that often offer lower interest rates or better loan terms.

LendKey was founded in 2009 with the goal of creating an innovative lending-as-a-service platform so borrowers could connect with hundreds of different banks and credit unions. Since its founding, more than 119,000 customers have been able to access more than $4 billion in loans through partner lenders.

LendKey helps borrowers seeking private student loans or looking to refinance existing loans. And contactors can even partner with LendKey to help their customers find affordable loan options to finance home projects.

Which loan products does LendKey offer?

LendKey's partners offer three different types of loans for would-be borrowers. These include:

  • Private student loans: Private student loans can help to finance the cost of your education after you've exhausted all of your federal student aid.
  • Student loan refinancing: If you have existing student loans, including both private and federal loans, they can be refinanced with LendKey. There are pros and cons to refinancing student loans. Your refinance loan could change your repayment terms and interest rate; however, you'll give up certain borrower protections by refinancing federal student debt.
  • Home improvement loans: Contractors can partner with LendKey to help their customers obtain affordable loans. Homeowners who are using an approved LendKey contractor can borrow to fund almost any type of home improvement project. These home improvement loans are a form of unsecured personal loan.

Student loans from LendKey

Many students exhaust their federal student aid and need to take out private student loans. LendKey offers these loans at an affordable rate to qualified borrowers with a good credit history and proof of income. Borrowers could also qualify with a cosigner if they can't meet eligibility requirements on their own.

LendKey provides private student loans with variable rates starting at 5.53% (as of Apr. 18, 2024) APR and fixed rates from 4.39% (as of Jan. 16, 2024) APR. This is with the contingency that you set up autopay. There are no application fees, and loans can be used to pay for any eligible expenses, including tuition, room and board, and other qualifying expenses related to attending school and earning your degree. Loan amounts can cover up to 100% of your school's cost of attendance, and LendKey partners don't charge prepayment penalties. 

Borrowers don't need to complete the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA) available from the Department of Education in order to qualify for a LendKey student loan — although completing the FAFSA is advisable to qualify for federal loans. To apply for loans through LendKey, borrowers can submit a quick and simple online application to see which partner lenders will provide financing and on what terms. 

Student loan refinancing from LendKey

If you already have federal or private student loans, LendKey also enables you to refinance them with a new loan. Your new loan will ideally have more favorable terms, such as a lower interest rate or a more affordable monthly payment.

When you refinance student loan debt, though, you need to be aware that you could lose protections available only with federal student aid. If you have Direct Subsidized Loans, interest is subsidized while you're in school or if loans are in deferment — but there's no subsidized interest on refinanced loans. You also lose the chance at loan forgiveness for work in public service; have less flexibility in deferring payments or pausing payments by putting loans into forbearance; and income-driven repayment plans that cap payments as a percentage of income aren't available anymore.

Refinancing private student loans has none of these downsides, though. And if you won't take advantage of federal borrower protections, refinancing federal student loans might make sense — especially if you can consolidate federal and private loans to make repayment simpler since you'll only owe one lender instead of many.

If you're going to refinance, LendKey can help you explore what community banks offer for affordable refinance loans with relatively low rates. Rates for autopay customers range from 5.24%-9.60%% (as of June 18, 2024) for a fixed APR with autopay, and you have a choice of repayment terms ranging from five to 15 years.

You'll also pay no origination fees to secure your refinance loan through LendKey. You'll need good credit and proof of sufficient income to repay your loan, though; otherwise, you'll need a cosigner to help you qualify. LendKey partners also don't charge prepayment penalties, so you won't be charged extra if you pay off your loan early.

Home improvement loans from LendKey

While many of the best personal loans can be used for any purpose, personal loans obtained through LendKey are designated only for home improvement. These loans can be used for just about any project you want to undertake at your home, with a few exceptions, such as landscaping, putting in an above-ground pool, or building a separate structure without a permanent foundation.  

While LendKey provides lots of flexibility in what home improvement funds can be used for, homeowners can obtain these loans only if the contractor performing the work is on LendKey's list of approved contractors.

The good news is these loans are unsecured, and no home equity is required for homeowners looking to borrow. You will, however, need good credit and proof of sufficient income to get approved for a personal loan.

What Lendkey customers are saying

LendKey has an A rating from the Better Business Bureau. Although the lender received just a one-star rating from customers on Better Business Bureau, there are only seven reviews, and several of the borrowers complain about paperwork requirements for securing a loan rather than the customer service provided once financing has been obtained.

LendKey received much better reviews on TrustPilot, where there is a larger sample size of over 300 reviews. The company has 4.5 stars on TrustPilot, with 89% of reviewing customers describing it as "excellent" or "great."

FAQs about LendKey

Is LendKey safe?

LendKey has been in business since 2009, has partnered with more than 13,000 community financial institutions, and has funded more than $3.1 billion in loans. Because of its long history and its Better Business Bureau accreditation, you can feel confident using LendKey.

LendKey doesn't provide loans, though — it just matches you with community lenders. Consider reading the customer service reviews of any lender that LendKey matches you with before completing the loan application process to make sure the lender you are dealing with has a good reputation.

Is LendKey good for student loans?

LendKey is good for students seeking private student loans or options to refinance their student loans. You can submit your information and get connected to partner lenders eager to make paying for your degree easier.

However, there are some eligibility requirements to keep in mind with both LendKey private student loans and student loan refinances. In order to get a loan through LendKey, you need to be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and have an associate's degree from an eligible institution. Partner lenders may also have specific eligibility criteria as well, such as a minimum credit score.

Does LendKey do a hard credit check?

When you compare loan options through LendKey, you'll be subject to a soft credit inquiry, which won't impact your credit score. You will only undergo a hard credit check when you move forward with the loan application process through a LendKey partner.

Does LendKey require a co-signer?

A cosigner is required by lenders only if you can't qualify for financing on your own based on your credit score or income. Applying for a loan with a cosigner who has better credit or who has a higher income than you do could also enable you to borrow at a more favorable rate.

After a set period of on-time payments, co-signers may be able to obtain a co-signer release. Approval is at the lender's discretion.

Is LendKey a Sallie Mae lender?

LendKey works with student loan partners, one of which is Sallie Mae. That means if you apply for a loan through LendKey, you may be offered one by Sallie Mae.

The bottom line on LendKey

If you're wondering how to get a loan for school, want to refinance student debt, or are borrowing for a home improvement project done by a partner contractor, LendKey could be a good option for you. Just remember to compare the loans from LendKey's partner banks and credit unions with the financing offered by other lenders to find the best rates and terms overall.

Lendkey Benefits

  • 2-minute rate check with no impact on your credit score
  • Refinancing rates as low as 5.24% fixed
  • Available for private and federal, undergraduate and grad school student loans
  • No origination fees or prepayment penalties

Author Details

Christy Rakoczy Christy Rakoczy has a Juris Doctorate from UCLA Law School with a focus in Business Law, and a Certificate in Business Marketing with an English Degree from The University of Rochester. As a full-time personal finance writer, she writes about all things money-related but her special areas of focus are credit cards, personal loans, student loans, mortgages, smart debt payoff strategies, and retirement and Social Security. Her work has been featured by USA Today, MSN Money, CNN Money and more, and you can learn more at her LinkedIn profile.